The below is written by Eric Resnick
Final Score: Tailgate U 63, Drexel 57
Drexel player of the game: Terrell Allen
Key to the game: Fouls, and the lack thereof
On what was the first real cold day of the season outside, the nightcap inside the Palestra got off to a warm start with host Drexel’s vivid fanavision presentation of highlights from Drexel’s yesteryear we had forgotten, along with strobe lights and lineup introductions by Dan Baker. The Palestra was a third full with 3,000 fans, ¾ of which were supporting the Nittany Lions. Two blocks away from campus may as well have been 3 hours away in Centre County. While Drexel lost by one more point than last season against PSU, this game was a lot more competitive and it appeared that Drexel might win at times.
The Dragons marched out to a quick start with a three and an inside lay up from Mohammad Bah. In just 2 minutes, Drexel was out to a 9-0 lead and then took an 11-2 lead into the first media time out. Drexel had an inside-and-out game going and was taking good care of the ball. Meanwhile, Penn State was always a step behind in the first quarter of the game, couldn’t get any good looks and forced up poor shots. This was due in part to Abif’s strong defense which persisted much of the game, holding PSU’s leading scorer, Brandon Taylor, to a mere six points. It was needed with the absence of Rodney Williams, who was sidelined from the South Carolina game with a left ankle injury; Williams was in a suit wearing a boot.
Abif would be more of a defensive force, but he did make a strong move inside, connecting on an “and-one”, giving Drexel a 20-9 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half. Terrell Allen recovered from an off-game in Columbia and managed 10 points in the first half, including a lay up that put the Dragons up 29-13, their highwater mark, with 8 minutes left in the first half.
Then came the zone.
And it wasn’t the best zone you’ll ever see, but all of a sudden the air went out of the ball for Drexel. Shep Garner led the Lions’ comeback with a three as PSU had caught up 32-25 and were down 34-27 at halftime.
Penn State went to the press somewhat early in the second half which was ineffective against the young Dragon guards. PSU went back to man-to-man as they could sense Drexel being worn down, playing just seven players to the Lions’ nine. All Drexel starters would log at least 30 minutes.
The biggest drama of the game involved the play of Terrell Allen. Allen made some rookie mistakes, but as typical with Bruiser Flint, he showed intolerance for Allen’s errors and directed his ire towards him. Allen did not appreciate the tirade and slammed a water bottle as he had to be held back by the assistant coaches. On a play that Terrell Allen had put Drexel up 46-43, Allen shot a look at Bruiser as if he was in control of the game. Allen would finish with 18 points.
One of the principal reasons why Drexel had maintained a lead so far into the game was that the officials let a lot of the physical play go. While there were some fouls that were petty and outright mysteries at times, the whistles were fairly silent in the first half, with PSU leading the foul ledger, 8-4, at halftime. This worked to Drexel’s advantage as their bigs weren’t held back on defense by the prospect of disqualification.
As usual, things like fouls and bad calls even themselves out in the following half and Abif would eventually foul out. Jordan Dickerson left the game for the Lions with four fouls with 11 minutes left in the game, but Drexel could not capitalize. PSU took its first lead on a Payton Banks lay up five minutes left in the game, 48-47. Banks would lead all scorers with 20 points.
Wise and open looks Tavon Allen was replaced by ill-advised poor shot selection Tavon Allen in the second half. With Drexel down 57-53 and under three minutes left in the game, Tavon tried to take matters into his own hands pounding the ball into the paint in double coverage, only to get blocked and start a Lions fast break on their way to their largest lead of the night, 6. Drexel would never recover. There were too many times down the stretch when you knew that Tavon Allen is not giving up the ball- he commits to shooting and doesn’t leave himself the option to dish off the ball.
Drexel shot 23% in the second half and just 30% for the game. Despite Abif’s defensive presence, Drexel was forced to no better than mid-range jumpers when PSU went to zone. Abif wasn’t feeling his range and went 2-12 from the field- the two made shots were close up while he missed several attempts from 12 feet or more.
There were bright spots, including Drexel’s 82% performance from the foul line. If this team gets healthy, it can be competitive in the CAA. 57% of Drexel shots were taken by someone named “Allen”. PSU had the edge in rebounding by 8, leading to 21 second chance points to Drexel’s 6.
Next game: Tuesday, December 22, Penn at Drexel. Directions for Penn fans can be found here.